Sports Media Stories to Watch in 2019: Prime Time Sports

Sports Media Stories to Watch in 2019: Prime Time Sports

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail

 

Good morning sports media fans. Hope you’re enjoying the end of summer. 

 

I’d like to extend a special thanks to the people in the industry who reach out via email, DM, and text to provide feedback and background. I am very grateful to those who maintain professional working standards with me despite differences of opinion. Writing about job losses is not fun for us here at TSM any more than it is for you to talk about coaches getting fired or players traded. It is a fact of life in sports media and that is what we cover here. 

 

Sportsnet Drops the Axe, Again

 

In case you are just checking TSM, here’s the big news as of Wednesday:

 

 

You can read Nick’s farewell post here. Of note, his tweet count is down to 48 as of right now:

 

 

Bob McCown was quick to jump in with a signature hashtag:

 

 

Doug MacLean confirmed the news from earlier this summer that his perennial 9-month a year contract was not renewed:

 

 

Howard Berger provides some context on what this means for this season’s broadcast, citing the following anonymous quote from someone on the inside:

 

“You want to believe fixtures like Ron MacLean, Grapes (Don Cherry) and Friedge (Elliotte Friedman) are untouchable, but who knows anymore? The environment is absolutely poisonous. Every person I work with is looking over his or her shoulder.”

 

Steve Simmons added the news that John Shannon is no longer with the network:

 

 

On to the main topic of this post …

 

How It Ends

 

It does not take a genius to figure out that everything is up for grabs at Sportsnet since the departure of Scott Moore. After a period of ratings disappointments Rogers was looking to make deep cuts to their sports media division and Moore bailed rather than stick around and be responsible for firing many of the people – mostly white men – on whom he bet the future of the network.

 

 

Moore’s version of events is somewhat different:

 

“I’m a specialist in start-ups and turnarounds. And Sportsnet is no longer that. Sportsnet is a successful, mature business,” Mr. Moore said in an interview this week. “It’s always more fun to storm the castle than defend it. We’re defending the castle now. … I’m looking for that next opportunity.” – Scott Moore

 

In March new Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley appeared on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown, in what is in hindsight an amazing interview. Bob’s first question was about ending the competition for viewers between PTS and Tim&Sid. His second question was about what changes his new boss wants to make. It’s clear that Bob did not have any inkling that this man would sign off on his firing just a couple of months later. For a complete rundown on the McCown news, read our story here.

 

 

In the time since his departure from Sportsnet Bob has been vocal in tweeting out news of other cuts at the network, including his longtime paid guests and the syndicated mini show Grapeline.

 

 

While the 67-year old Bob plans his next move, Sportsnet has been busy trying out various combinations of hosts on 590. This is not unusual as many established hosts take vacation over the summer, however this year it feels very different. With the obvious vacancy in the drive home slot, a simmering mess in the morning, and a big question about the future of the Tim & Sid TV show, it is clear that change is afoot.

 

The Future

 

We will discuss the impending changes to Sportsnet’s hockey coverage in a separate post. Here we will focus on the radio lineup and the related implications for the TV side. At this point I’ll add my usual disclaimer that I am not someone who watches radio on TV nor do I have time or interest in watching scripted debate shows. I turn on my TV to watch live sports and nothing else from either SN or TSN. (If you have a deep appreciation for this sub-genre and want to write for us, email me).

 

 

 

American networks provide many hours of debate styled entertainment but Canadian networks don’t seem to have the same appetite. TSN canceled both Off The Record and The Reporters in the last few years and have not replaced either. At Sportsnet, Tim & Sid is their only “studio” show aside from traditional desk shows, and it is an odd mash-up of a radio show, an interview show, a pre-game show, and a clip show, with some prepared bits and arguments thrown in. Despite being alone in the marketplace it does not draw significant ratings relative to the highlights reel it replaced or the one it competes with over on TSN. The show’s large production budget was slashed in the recent round of layoffs.

 

Putting this all together strongly suggests that Yabsley may answer Bob’s question about ending the competition between the two shows by shifting Tim & Sid over to radio 4-7pm with some portion being on TV as well. If this happens the biggest risk is alienating the multi-decade base of PTS listeners, while at the same time losing the sub-45 year old audience to the rising stars at Overdrive on TSN1050. 

 

If they don’t intend to move Tim & Sid to the PTS slot, this means deciding between keeping the style of the old McCown show or skewing younger. Those two options are clearly on the table as 590 has been experimenting with a PTS led by Jeff Blair and a PTS led by some of the other names at 590 (Ennis, Bennett, Stellick, MacArthur).

 

 

This then leaves a question about whether the existing co-hosts – Deitsch and Brunt – would be retained or re-assigned. Brunt has been happy to be on radio or not be on radio so I assume he would gladly stick to doing podcasts and features. (If I’m Yabsley I demand/beg that Brunt do a weekly column and podcast. Despite leaving the Globe 8 years ago no one has been able to fill the void in the marketplace, and Sportsnet has criminally allowed him to shed writing almost entirely from his portfolio). Deitsch would fit on any version of PTS, though with his successful podcast and writing gig with The Athletic he might also be fine with moving on from Sportsnet. McCown was clearly part of the equation when he decided to move to Toronto. If I’m TSN I make a call to Deitsch and see if he has any interest in reviving a business of sports type show.

 

The MacArthur Factor

 

 

When you look at the talent pool on Sportsnet’s existing roster it is hard not to notice how quickly MacArthur has risen to the top of the list in his short time since defecting from TSN. While he was originally hired to be the new voice of JaysTalk he has transitioned to being the go-to replacement guy in almost every time slot that matters.

 

MacArthur is also a shining example of how to play your cards right in this industry: he is widely respected for his baseball acumen by the writers on the beat, and he managed to move from one side to the other with almost everyone wishing him well in the process. Compared to the high profile tribal antics by the likes of Greg Brady, Damien Cox, and Bob McCown, Scott has expertly walked a fine line in an industry where it is very hard to switch allegiances without burning bridges. TSN has to see the missed opportunity and may eventually look to bring him back.

 

At this point it is a given that Sportsnet sees more value in having MacArthur on the radio during daylight hours rather than hosting what became the worst call-in show in Toronto during Wilner’s time behind the mic. The most obvious slot for him is taking over Blair’s show from 9-12, and hosting the midday Jays show during the season. However, he has impressed so many people at this point that it would be premature to rule him out of the competition for PTS host. 

 

The other place for MacArthur would be as part of a new morning show on 590. No time slot has provided more news stories for this site than 5:30-9am on The Fan. Program directors at 590 have constantly sought to re-inevent the wheel here in a search for ratings gold. Just as a reminder, in the last 10 years we have had:

 

  • The Andrew Krystal Experiment
  • Brady & Lang
  • Brady & Walker
  • The Dean Blundell Show with Andrew Walker (announced)
  • The Dean Blundell Show without Andrew Walker
  • Brady & Price & Burrill
  • Brady & Docking & Burrill

 

Don Kollins broke up the successful pairing of Brady & Walker in the hopes of even better ratings with Dean Blundell. The results were poor and Kollins left, then Blundell was ousted just in time for Brady’s severance pay to expire. He was brought back at a reduced rate and paired with Price by Dave Cadeau in his first big move since taking over as PD. Cadeau then reversed course two years later on the 60+ year old Price and hired the first female host in a generation to 590 in Docking. 

 

Docking and MacArthur worked together over the summer and the pairing is, to my ears, better than Brady & Docking. So it is possible that Sportsnet management will decide that after 9 years of Greg Brady in the morning it is time to give someone else a try.

 

Playing The Odds

 

Given the cost-cutting directive at the network it seems highly likely that the game of musical chairs will end with someone being out of a job. I can’t see Sportsnet dumping Blair because he is protection in case the McCown move turns out to be a ratings mistake. The traditional audience would likely accept Blair as a “good-enough” substitute for the customarily comfortable curmudgeon they lost. The safest move is to go ahead with Blair, Brunt, and Deitsch (if they can afford all three) for the next few years. But this doesn’t solve the obvious Moore mistake of putting PTS and Tim&Sid head to head. 

 

One possibility is to move Tim&Sid back to radio, but as their new morning show. This could provide content for TV, while counter-programming Overdrive without taking them on directly. If the market responds to Tim&Sid then you move them to 4-7 when the time is right. MacArthur & Docking (or whoever) move to the old Blair slot. This isn’t a prediction or a proposal, just a reasoning out of the kinds of considerations Yabsley et al will need to work through before making their next move. 

 

 

Firing McCown was a huge risk given how easy it would have been to ride out another year and then wish him all the best in retirement. The new management at Sportsnet are either under tremendous pressure to make big cuts to their sports media budget or they are aggressively starting to skate to where the puck is going. Time will tell whether these moves turn out to be visionary or reactionary.

 

Previous entries in the “stories to watch” series can found here: Damien Cox, Podcasting, Sports Media Economics

 

Over to you: here are some polls to gauge your interest in some of the ideas outlined here. As usual, if you are in management at Sportsnet or TSN you are not permitted to view poll results without written permission from TSM. Results will be hidden for the first 24 hours or so to mitigate brigading.

 

 

 

 


thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

one of the mikes on this site

 

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 73
  • comment-avatar
    Mario 3 months ago

    Thanks for your insight MIB. No doubt the fan has been loosing ground to 1050 in bits and peices in all time slots but that’s, that’s the system with all the up and downs till the next rating period.Maybe a total reset neeed I’m not sure.
    But the most concerning is the 4-7 slot and changes have to be made. I agree Scott MacAuthur is a great addition he would fit in any time slot. Maybe PTS is a good fit , they just need to get younger. Tim and Sid would work as well. They can all speak well about any sport and be entertaining as well. Were I find on Overdrive it’s mainly hockey driven and not as well on other sports.

  • comment-avatar

    Will the suits a rogers ever learn ? Once again they have backed themselves into a corner.
    Jeff Blair as a permanent PTS sports host would be a HUGE mistake.
    It’s time they went to Dan Shulman put a blank cheque on the table and ask him to fill it out with $$ term & conditions.
    Upon immediately approving what Dan needs then they can rebuild mornings,mid-day ect.
    rogers has a glaring chance to build a strong base leading into Shulman and PTS with existing staff Mac A, Tim & Sid,Ditch…
    Do you think they will blow this chance ??

  • comment-avatar

    Blair has good sports knowledge, but I find him too easily slipping into put downs and dismissals of those he disagrees with. He also needs to lay of dismissing outright those whose politics are different from his.

    With Tim & Sid, I don’t believe you’ll ever get a consensus. I don’t dismiss those who like the duo, but for me Sid is an act I cannot get with. Tim on the other hand, I have no problem with. Given that they have never had the ratings success in their current time slot that their radio only years brought; I believe that they will not replicate McCown”s ratings if given the PTS show.

  • comment-avatar

    If Blair is in – I’m out. His delivery is cringeworthy and his sense of humour juvenile – bag of dicks repeated over and over again doesn’t make it funnier – unless, of course – you’re twelve. Interesting how every guest refused to partake in this “hilarious joke.” I’m a day one listener and am sad to say – probably out unless Shulman is coaxed back. Scott Mcarthur is just okay and this market deserves better.

  • comment-avatar

    After listening to Scott MacArthur a couple of times when he was on TSN, I thought to myself, now there’s a refreshing, authoritative and well informed voice. His passion may be baseball but he’s knowledgable in all aspects of sports, the question is whether he has the personality or charisma to lead a morning or evening show in prime time? 

  • comment-avatar
    WestdaleRocks 3 months ago

    Blair is tough to listen to.  Combine his putdowns with his never ending preambles to questions, and you have a host who desperately needs some coaching.  Scotty Mac is an easy listen.  

  • comment-avatar
    David 3 months ago

    I agree with Bob Jones. The majority of the sports radio shows in Toronto are hard to listen to. Hosts like Brady and Blair ask 10 minute questions and never let the interviewee respond to their questions properly. I would like to see the radio shows focus on sports with some humour mixed in. Every show tries to be a comedy show with sports mixed in and it’s not working. With as large a market as Toronto is, it’s hard to believe we don’t have much decent sports radio.

  • comment-avatar

    I like Blair and I think when he has the right co-host with him he shines on PTS. That said I feel he’s better suited to the morning slot leaning into baseball central. His bread and butter is baseball and his type of show is better suited for that morning slot as opposed to the drive him afternoon. I would save him for round-tables but I wouldn’t necessarily give him the keys to PTS.

    MacArthur on the other hand feels like someone who could fit in very well as host of Prime Time. I would like to see how he interacts on a regular basis with the regular hosts, if Brunt (do we know if he was among the cuts? Still waiting of the list of who’s in and who’s out) and/or Deitsch are sticking around that is.

    As for Tim&Sid – move them back to afternoons (1-4) where they did well and just call it a day. I get some within Rogers (and here) feel for the money they should be front and center but their show just doesn’t work on TV and in a corportized and over-produced and over-packaged environment.

  • comment-avatar

    I voted Tim and Sid for the evening only because I want Scott MacArthur in the morning. Funny how the majority want Scott MacArthur in both timeslots.

  • comment-avatar
    Carl A 3 months ago

    I was a long time PTS listener, until McCown left and took his access to insiders with him. I tuned in to PTS last week and they had the racist Jemele Hill on for an extended time. That’s when I decided to move on to satellite radio or another local station.

  • comment-avatar
    stephen marks 3 months ago

    Get Sid Sexzero off my tube, dude looks like a greasy used car salesman always having to say “I’ll make it right” every time a customer returns with a complaint. The Blair Witch Project was a smokescreen to placate Jeff so he would stop using the bathroom at Roger’s. Dude constantly looks like he’s trying to pinch out something painful and odorous. Brunt looks like a garden gnome the cat tries to cover-up. I think in the last round of lay-offs Roger’s fired his neck. Brunt is one of those “jack of all trades expert at nothing” guys whose still trying to track down Bobby Orr for an interview 5 years after writing a book about him. Then there is Greg “Tsunami” Brady, the guy who arrives when you don’t want him then causes a trail of destruction and mayhem behind him when he leaves. As of today, August 27th at 10:19 am I am issuing a Greg “Tsunami” Alert. Please quickly move to higher ground if you are in radio. And finally the Bobcat. Bob at least you’re using the sour grapes leftover from your bankrupt winery to entertain us with those tweets. [redacted: please avoid making references to the families of media members]
    Word has it that when Bob was approached to appear at the annual Roger’s softball game he asked if he could “throw out the first bitch.” Roger’s is so pissed at Bob here’s their plan, make Mike Wilner the new host of PTS with a daily round table of co-hosts Mike Weir, a loans officer from RBC Royal Bank, a Nappa Valley wine expert, a suit, a bean counter and a accupuncturist. Can’t wait for the Bobcat the movie, “Breaking Bob”.

  • comment-avatar

    I don’t mind Blair, and I’ve always thought that he would be a natural replacement when the time came for Bob as he is knowledgeable in multi facets and can steer an intelligent conversation accordingly. Sure he has his downfalls, but he is more “old school” than others. Pairing him with Brunt and Deitsch would be a natural succession to PTS. Unfortunately, Bob set a standard that won’t be duplicated, so it’s a tough act to follow in its current format.

    I think the logical choice would be to go with Tim & Sid. They can counter OverDrive’s “bro” talk and goofiness, but with an infinitely greater level of quality sports talk when getting down to the nitty gritty.

    MacArthur is really good, and Ennis and Bunkis may be enjoyed by many (not me personally), but neither of these shows would make prime time listening worthwhile.

    Letting McCown go was a huge mistake by the Fan and it has made all sports radio unlistenable in this city (yes, that includes everybody’s favourite OverDrive, which I can’t stand).

  • comment-avatar

    Rogers allowed Scott Moore to save face by giving him the option to resign instead of being fired after Moore ran a focus group testing a PTS pairing of Jeff Blair with Saul Korman from Korry’s on the Danforth which tested surprisingly well in the septuagenarian + demo. Moore gave them a tambourine and a guitar and each segment was introduced with the duo humming a ditty from The Clash. 

    Bart Yabsley briefly considered Moore’s suggestion but then quietly buried it when he heard from the higher ups at Rogers that the resporatory bidget could not be increased due to shareholder pressure. 

  • comment-avatar

    Please add a Brady and MacArthur choice
    to poll above for Starting Lineup. 

  • comment-avatar
    Original Mitch 3 months ago

    First of all, Moore was tired. Don’t believe anything else you hear. He was let go by Rogers. 
    Secondly, it’s 2019 and Gord Stellick is on PTS talking about baseball. If that isn’t all you need to know about how badly run a station the Fan actually is, then you must work for the company. 
    The Fan has been a disaster for some time now. Rotating shows and hosts is the worst thing you can do. Establishing Blair at 9am then giving him PTS is nonsensical after he built the morning audience (if he did). The Fan and it’s bosses is a gong show. They are lucky that TSN radio is run by a bigger fool. 

  • comment-avatar
    Franco 3 months ago

    Brunt is world class persona same with friedman

  • comment-avatar
    Bingo Bango Bongo 3 months ago

    Slim Whitman is right. This is the time to try to convince Shulman to come back to PTS. I don’t know if he’s willing to do it but of all the options he is the best. I find it funny how much love MacArthur is getting. I don’t recall people seeing him that way at TSN. He’s a really nice guy but his personality isn’t there for mornings or afternoons. I think he looks good because all the other options are so bad. I don’t know what Cadeau will do but I think the fact no changes have yet been announced is interesting. The Fan is in big trouble. It’s really important that they get this right. 

  • comment-avatar

    Lol “racist Jemele Hill”.

  • comment-avatar

    Id Like to see Scotty Mac in the morning, Blair at 9, JD at 1 and Shulman with Deitch for PTS. And as always, the more barker the better

  • comment-avatar

    Maybe the Mensa members at rogerz will replace Kipper & MaClain with Krystal & Blundel.

  • comment-avatar

    they had the racist Jemele Hill on for an extended time.

    Being an outspoken black woman hardly makes her a ‘racist’.

  • comment-avatar
    Steve B 3 months ago

    I haven’t been working this summer but generally speaking my radio is locked on 590 for better or worse (generally worse these days). That being said, I really enjoy Blair doing the 9-12 as he gets a bit wider scope of topics and he gets a bit more of a leash than if he was in the PTS or morning drive slot.

    I also think that over the years they have been grooming Elliotte Friedman for the PTS gig but who knows what the plan is now that different heads run the show. All I can say is the Friday round table got me through some seriously boring drives home and I’d like to thank the Bobcat for all his years. 

  • comment-avatar

    Simmons tweeting that Shannon is no more on SN. Finally…a staffing decision that makes sense!

  • comment-avatar

    Now, Kypreos and Doug Maclean are gone. Is Sportsnet grooming Howie Meeker for a comeback?

  • comment-avatar

    Who knows what the future holds for sports talk in this city?  However, one thing I can say with certainty is that a market the size of greater Toronto deserves better sports talk radio than the pablum we are currently served between noon and 4pm. 

  • comment-avatar

    @Pete – I agree with you completely.

    Firing Bob was a colossal mistake. When someone has THAT kind of history and connection with the audience, you don’t shove him out the door like that. Not when the show is still good quality and performing well. Now The Fan has no identity or familiarity anymore – Which had been one of its main advantages over TSN. Stupid. And disrespectful to their audience.
    I enjoy Blair as well. He makes sense as a PTS host in that he’s smart and can discuss similar stuff as Bob. I think the problem is – Bob is a drastically better broadcaster. So when he hosts it just sounds like ‘here’s a similar show to what PTS was, just not quite as good’. So I think either have to wow us with Dan Shulman or go different with Tim & Sid.

  • comment-avatar
    Original Mitch 3 months ago

    Regardless of opinion, these firings by SN continue to demonstrate how bad things are over there and really makes you wonder if they’ll be able to recover. The NHL deal was a disaster but at the same time, their inability to make it profitable is the real issue. I’m sorry, but blaming the teams on the ice is fraudulent. The fact is, the leafs have been good, Calgary has been good, Sens went to a conference finals, oilers have mcjesus. It is entirely Rogers fault for not being creative and getting the desired ratings. Imagine being told you basically have full control of the nhl and it’s content and you end up losing money and having to fire all your talent as a result. Pathetic. And the blue jays? Don’t get me started. You literally control the product! This organization is laughable and should be taught in business school as a “how not to” run a company. 

  • comment-avatar

    @PaulG Not surprising as he was a FOB, but welcome news nonetheless. Watching Shannon twidle with his phone like he was going to break a trade on the deadline shows was a joke. I try not to rip anyone here, and losing your job sucks..but he will not be missed especially since he was on every damn show. Shan590 no more.

    As for PTS, no idea what they will do, but I like Schulman..Scotty Mac could do it as he has the voice. If I were to guess, I would say they go with Tim and Sid, if only to compete with the juvenile antics across the dial (which I love). Closest thing they have to ‘stars’ and 4pm probably will be star driven.

  • comment-avatar

    For those clamouring for Dan Shukman’s return to Prime Time Sports – fuggedabouit. He left ESPN Sunday Night baseball on tv because he wanted to spend more tine with his family. Doing selected Blue Jays games with familiar AL top ranked teams and always enjoying broadcasting NCAA Basketball games, there’s NO WAY he’ll ever consider hosting PTS on a regular basis.

    Tim and Sid on the radio and in mornings – yeesh as someone mentioned can’t stand over the to Sixeiro and would rather game Tim his own show as he sounds more like a professional broadcaster tan his partner.

    ScottyMac perfect permanent host for PTS and send Blair back to 9-12 am slot where he had quite a bit of success.

  • comment-avatar

    I admit that I was really shocked to see the news about Kypreos leaving Sportsnet. Figured a Day One person like him was essentially untouchable especially since he’s been the face of the NHL stuff for them for so long. John Shannon on the other hand, I guess being the NHL’s stooge isn’t enough to keep him safe at Sportsnet.

    Really does make me wonder now who’s next? Would they try to give Friedman his walking papers? Chris Johnson?

  • comment-avatar

    Love how the Bobcat tweets fondly about the passing of Banks, the departure of Kypreos and Shannon, but totally ignore Doug Mclean. As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold.

  • comment-avatar
    Gary M 3 months ago

    I suspect those talking about Dan Shulman for PTS can save their breath. He’s universally regarded as the top play by play guy in the business. He gets to do anything and go anywhere and sort of make his own schedule with no ratings pressure whatsoever. Not giving that up for 3 competitive hours a day, imo.

    I think Tim and Sid with a “tone it down, Sid” directive will work great at PTS. Soon as we can’t see them anymore, their talent will seem much greater and they really are as good as anyone when stories are breaking.

    Buck and Pat for mornings, obviously.

  • comment-avatar
    Gary M 3 months ago

    Mitch, if you overpay for NHL rights by enough, you won’t break even no matter what you do unless maybe the Leafs put together back to back Cups. Probably applies to the Rogers deal.

    They paid very top dollar at what was probably the peak of the sports rights bubble. Every day that goes by, the more traditional sports consumers die off (or leave the key demo) and are replaced by people who are very happy to watch other people play video games.

  • comment-avatar

    @ Gary M “As soon as we can’t see them anymore”.

    PTS is televised and while Bob always said it was a “radio show on tv”; the cameras did change how they presented on air. While the structure of the PTS segments will allow them to go back to their radio style; Sid will still play to the cameras like he has always done going back to the days when their original show was also televised. I like your idea of a “tone it down Sid” directive, but controlling on-air talent is challenging at the best of times.

  • comment-avatar

    @Gary M – I have to disagree about Schulman – I find him over rated and his droning voice is annoying and like so many announcers these days he never shuts up – I think the fact he is Canadian is being mistaken for quality – I started dialing back on PTS when Mccown caught TDS and if anyone disagreed with his assessment of Trump he labeled them a moron or ‘maroon’ – The ads also put me off – I realize someone must pay the freight but the repetition was mind numbing – I no longer listen to PTS at all as Blair and his ramblings makes Trudeau sound like a great orator – I also understand there is a chance that Wilner might be on PTS occasionally – No Thank You –

  • comment-avatar
    Allan Jones 3 months ago

    Adnan Virk would be great on PTS. All round sports knowledge and pop culture. Shulman dull, MacAurthor bland, Blair back to mornings. Docking would also be a good co host on PTS. Deitch continue as co host. Brunt dinosaur.

  • comment-avatar

    The NHL deal is fine, would be done again, and Sportsnet has increased its profit vs prior to it for each year publicly CRTC-released financials are available. The “sports rights bubble” if you want to call it that has not popped; rights have only increased in deals signed since the Rogers one and have extended to sports-ish products like WWE, which FOX paid a billion dollars to start broadcasting on their networks. Now maybe this turns in the future but I don’t think it’ll be in the immediate term, and you’ll keep seeing increasing sub fees and increasing ad-rates for live sports in a environment of perpetually declining TV ratings overall.

    I believe ultimately these cuts are being done because Rogers feels it can do it without a decline in revenue or an unacceptable decline in quality. This is coming from top-down corporate pressure to squeeze an extra 1/2 percent in margin out of the business where possible, not because these specific lines are necessarily losing money. Lets not forget this was the same network (TSN too for that matter) who made 50-100 million every year and had their student interns working for free. It might not be over either; unless they quietly signed new contracts Buck/Tabler are up after this season and could easily be sent packing for someone less costly (assuming Shulman won’t do it full time).

    And while it is horrible for people to lose their jobs, I don’t think any of these hockey commentators will be particularly missed. For example, John Shannon was the most maligned person on this website the last 5 years and shouldn’t have moved to the other side of the camera to begin with.

  • comment-avatar

    Where is Marek as an option? 

    Remember when people thought Friedman was the PTS successor? 

  • comment-avatar

    Where is Marek as an option?

    Methinks he’s now firmly the heir to Millard’s position as being defacto host for all things hockey so he should be safe for now.

  • comment-avatar
    Chance Vought 3 months ago

    I hope Kevin Barker is the next one to get the ax. It’s inexcusable that after several years he’s still saying that he doesn’t understand how WAR and other advanced stats work. He doesn’t have to agree with it, but he should at least try to understand it. Just a sickening display of ignorance on baseball central today and worst of all he takes prides in his ignorance.

  • comment-avatar

    If sportsnot is making all these cuts to try and get ahead of the escalator this upcoming season in this absurd  nhl contract they are going to be paying for for 6 plus years yet, you would have to think  arash madani and his agenda driven ego eccentric reporting and flying all over the continent for mostly worthless reporting and interviews would be at the top of the chopping block now…

  • comment-avatar
    Original Mitch 3 months ago

    if the nhl deal was a good one, there is no way they would continue to chop their day-one high priced hockey talent all the while trying to cram as much hockey as possible on the network. This is a network that has always been huge on promoting their talent, even more so than the sports sometime. Watch any of their old promos advertising nhl hockey, it’s 25 percent on ice visuals and 75 percent “talent” on the desks. Whether you like the talent or not, we are heading toward interns hosting the shows. It would suck to work there so much knowing that if you ask for a decent salary, you are likely fired. Marek, Friedman, all these other hacks probably look at tsn with so much envy. 

  • comment-avatar
    billyjoejimbob 3 months ago

    MIke V has it right

    Cherry has one year left. Friedman and Hrudey two or three. The only one of the big boys with the opportunity to stay the rest of the term is MacLean. Rogers loves him for the goodwill he creates on Hometown Hockey

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    Mike in Hamilton 3 months ago

    For me, Rogers started down this path when they gassed Mike Hogan 10 years ago, and they have failed to hire anyone memorable or compelling since, especially compared to the massive improvements at TSN over that time. Dan Patrick in the morning, TSN Overdrive in the afternoon and Jason Smith at night, combined with 680AM or FUNNY820 when I’m driving and FAN590 isn’t even a saved station anymore.

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    daver 3 months ago

    hey Mike in Hamilton, maybe don’t use anti-semitic phrases like “gassed” when referring to someone being fired.

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    Gary M 3 months ago

    Mike V, big fan of your posts here. Both for the boldly non-consensus takes and the data you back them with. But I still have a hunch they’re sucking wind on this NHL deal and under no circumstances would do it over if they could go back in time.

    I think Sportsnet might have increased profit in spite of it as opposed to because of it, with good runs by the Jays, and then the Leafs and Raptors improved and made the playoffs and the economy in general strengthened. The economy is likely very late cycle now and the yearly cost of the NHL rights is escalating. Rogers probably has a graph which clearly projects the cost rising while the revenue decreases and are battening down the hatches as those lines nearly inevitably cross. I bet they have 5 scenarios going forward 1 of which is ok and the other 4 range from bad to disaster.

    I wonder if the one real growth area for the NHL is in video games, and is that the one aspect of hockey in Canada that Rogers doesn’t own?

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    yaz@yaz.com 3 months ago

    To increase audience engagement, Rogers is presently running Huawei sponsored focus groups across the country testing a new HNIC second period intermission show where they play the theme from the Munsters for five minutes. 

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    Gary M,

    Mike V and I have hashed this topic out on a previous post.

    In Year 5 of the Rogers-NHL deal, according to the latest CRTC filing (September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2018), Sportsnet had an operating profit of approximately $139 million. However where Mike V and I differ is that I think Rogers is cutting costs now in anticipation of rising costs and possibly flat revenues that are associated with the Rogers-NHL deal.

    Rogers, as part of their NHL deal, parceled off French-language rights to TVA. Also, an aspect of the Rogers-NHL called for the annual rights fees paid to the NHL by Rogers to escalate throughout the term of the contract. In other words, the deal was back-end loaded. My estimate is that the net fees payable by Rogers (payment to the NHL less the fees collected from TVA) will grow by a compound annual rate of 6.4%. Rights fees currently account for approximately 75% of Sportsnet’s expenses.

    With these estimates, if the non-rights expenses do not grow, Sportsnet will need revenues to grow by a compound annual rate of 4.6% to maintain the $139 million operating income. There are a number of issues to consider.

    Rogers would not be satisfied if the operating income is the same in Year 12 as it was in Year 5. Revenue growth, all things being equal, will need to be better than the 4.6% figure.
    Between 2018 and 2018, Sportsnet has seen the number of subscribers decline from 8.3 million to 7.2 million. I don’t think the number of subscribers will stay at the same level given the current cord-cutting phenomena.
    2018 revenues were only 0.16% higher than 2017 revenues. National advertising revenues in 2018 were $5 million less than they were in 2016; they were $29 million less than they were in 2017.
    According to the CRTC filing, TVA Sports has been averaging a $20 million operating loss over the past few years. What if TVA Sports goes bankrupt? That could add an average $76 million annually in net costs to Rogers (the amount of rights fees paid by TVA to Rogers). This assumes that Rogers is on the hook for the full rights fees payable to the NHL. Much like a head lease for real estate, if the sub-tenant defaults, the tenant still pays the full rent to the landlord. I have assumed that is how the Rogers-NHL deal is structured.

    This is a long-winded way of saying that I think Rogers is being prudent in cutting costs now. They know that costs will escalate and my guess is that they are not comfortable with the environment for revenue growth. On the latter point, my understanding is that Rogers has never met the projected revenue targets on the Rogers-NHL deal. If I were Rogers, I would be very conservative in future revenue projections. Accordingly, cutting costs now is needed in order to get out in front of the situation.

    Below is the link to the CRTC filing. Click on “2018 Click to expand”.

    http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.855340/publication.html

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    Gary, true the Blue Jays did affect the numbers in the early years of the contract but that bump would’ve fallen back by the time the 2018 numbers were released. But the Raptors were pretty steady that whole time, 50-something win seasons, disposed fairly easily by Lebron in the 2nd or 3rd round. They didn’t really become the TV force until this past playoff run.

    The CW that gets thrown around a lot is along the lines that the deal is horrible because the NHL TV ratings haven’t go up and therefore the ad money hasn’t. I find two problems with this thinking 1) TV ratings have been going down broadly across the board for years and the live nature of sports has impacted it less relative to other TV properties but more importantly 2) Sportsnet doesn’t make most of its money off advertising. Subscriber revenue is where 56% of 2018’s revenue comes from (this is just the main channel; for 1 and 360 it’s above 70%) and that revenue is audience-agnostic in the short term. They take a piece of your cable bill every month whether someone watches or not. That part of the revenue pie has been extremely strong, 10% growth a year since 2014 even while Sportsnet has lost over a million subscriber during the same period.

    Now this is all backwards looking and maybe the sub increases are going to stop, Rogers leveraged the deal for all its worth in a round of renewals with the cable providers and that’s done now. But I don’t believe that’s the case if you look at ESPN; they’ve had their properties for decades and continue to extract huge increases in every negotiation. Base case the sub rights probably fall but to the 4-7% yoy increase range which is enough to cushion some of the annual fee increases.

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    Sorry for the typos noted below.

    It should read “… according to the latest CRTC filing (September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2018), Sportsnet had an operating …”.

    Also, it should read “between 2014 and 2018, Sportsnet has seen the number of subscribers …”.

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    Mark coale 2 months ago

    In south of the border news, NBC is removing Pierre from the number 1 announce team.

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    Gary M 2 months ago

    Bob and Mike V, thank you very much. Seeing my two favourite posters go deep is fun. Sticking to my guns with the position that Rogers sees an iceberg dead ahead. The worst time to be stuck with gigantic overhead.

    Arguably the most dangerous thing in business is to get caught leaning the wrong way at a major turning point. The point when subscriptions go negative? When pro sports rights go negative? When the whole economy goes into recession? When hockey goes into decline in Canada? All four? I don’t pretend to know but it’s all plausible to me. Human interests are changing. Canadian demographics are changing. And the notion that sports is the last thing people watch live is pretty much fully realized.

    btw, one figure in that filing really jumped out at me. The sizable increase in remuneration-per-employee from 2016 to 2018. What was that about?

    Mike, you mentioned ESPN. And without knowing a tenth of what you know, I still recall Disney stock drastically underperforming the S&P for about half a decade because of some mix of ESPN’s rights commitments and declining subs.

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    Gary M,

    Thank you for the kind words.

    With respect to the increase in the remuneration per employee, I can only guess. I doubt that there was an upward market pressure on TV salaries during that period that would explain the increase. One explanation could be that the head-count reduction (503 to 476) affected primarily lower-salaried employees. Accordingly, the average comp-per-employee would increase. But, as I said, this is only a guess.

    Cheers!

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    Not sports related, but Rogers Media laid off a ton of people from Breakfast Television across the country last week. It goes without saying things aren’t good at Rogers. Maybe the NHL deal was a double-edged sword. It has given SN some success, but they haven’t changed viewer habits the way they’d hoped given the cost. The results are mixed. The ratings on Trade Deadline and Free Agency prove that many people watch TSN if given the choice.

    That’s not what you pay $5 bn for. Hockey in Canada is weird in that it is number 1, but it makes whoever covers it put all their eggs in the hockey basket. The romanticist will tell you there’s no way you can overpay for hockey and its meaning to Canadiana, but here we are. TSN now is where I wish they were when they had hockey. They still cover hockey, but out of necessity they’ve covered more basketball, tennis, golf and MMA. These things don’t bring hockey-type numbers, sure, but they don’t cost billions and have your entire network depend on them either.

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    Great discussion everyone. There is no doubt that Sportsnet is making money off the Jays and NHL. The Rogers/NHL deal has to be analyzed in the context of ROI – what was promised both internally and to advertisers in terms of upside. There are some public records of Moore promising advertisers a 20% bump in audience in the early years and then incremental gains on top of that. They charged advertisers more for spots based on these projections and then, as we know, had to give away valuable Jays playoff ad space to make good. Those lost revenues aren’t going to show up on CRTC filings but they are very much part of the story.

    I’m going to be offline for a little while. Jonah will be holding down the fort until I get back.

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    Gassed…point taken…

    Sports is only thing I ever watch live, been that way for a decade, and the sooner I can cut the cable TV cord and go streaming or even PPV for individual games the better. I’m in my 50’s and none of my kids have ever had cable in their own homes, just unlimited internet, and that should terrify Bell/Rogers/Cogeco the most.

    Sports rights fees are one of the big drivers of cable TV price increases, and Bell/Rogers/Cogeco are already shedding thousands of TV viewers a month. With streaming services getting more aggressive going after broadcast rights for their own platforms, cord-cutting rates are only going to increase.

    Rogers still has 5+ years on their NHL deal, and with viewership rates fairly flat, it will be interesting to see how Rogers handles that.

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    I really like when Joey V is able to do the 9-12 time slot on 590. I know he has a great gig at Live Nation and would probably never leave the but they should make an arrangement that could work for both SN and Live Nation. If you are able to get Joey V for the 9-12 I would then have Scott MacArthur do the afternoon time slot.

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    Could not in any way , shape, or form, disagree more.

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    Ryan Marks 2 months ago

    Where is the vote box to bring McCown back? That’s ridiculous it’s not there, even for the sake of argument. This blog hates McCown so bad, it’s willing to hurt it’s own article for clicks to shut McCown out. Are you guys being paid off by Rogers? I’m starting to think you are.

    And from what McCown tweeted today, and the Sportsnet survey asked about him in the last month, it seems as though that’s a possibility of Bobcat coming back,

    So in that real option, I think the best idea is to bring Bobcat back for a couple of years, with younger co-hosts. Give him a ton of time off so you test which young ones will work. Even if you found one you liked, you could still have Bob lead a round table on Monday’s and Fridays. At least give Bob the proper send off he deserves instead of the ridiculousness of June that made Rogers and Sportsnet look so bad. And then have two or three years to test out new hosts, so there’s a smooth transition.

    Blair just doesn’t have the humour that’s badly needed during our traffic crush to carry 4-7. Put him back from 9-12 where his seriousness is more needed.

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    @Ryan Marks…Well stated on all points!

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    Charlie 2 months ago

    @ryan clearly you live in a world where in 2019 radio have unlimited budgets….dream line ups are fun to make but to have those type of expectations is ridiculous…

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    I’m sure all the students at Ryerson’s Sports Media program are drawing a lot of inspiration from Mike Zigomanis co-hosting the 9-12 shift with Scott MacArthur.

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    Can we please have a dedicated blog piece/discussion on Leafs fans calling Darren Dreger out enmasse? I find it utterly hilarious, but TSN must be embarrassed and concerned that one of their top so called “insiders” is so blatantly carrying water for the Marner camp, that fans are calling Dreger “Paul” literally everytime he tweets now.

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    Ryan Marks 2 months ago

    Charlie, when you go from a doubling Overtime’s ratings, to being near or lower than the TSN 1050 show, that’s going to cost you way more than paying McCown. Let alone bringing up TSN’s prestige, while 1050 didn’t have to do anything to bring up their own ratings. That then affects the overall perception of Fan 590. It was just terrible, narrow-minded, misguided management.

    I think Rogers and Sportsnet had no idea how beloved McCown was to so many, and how much of a pillar McCown was at 590. It didn’t matter your politics, or your age, he reached everyone because of his perfect Toronto sarcastic humour. I mean McCown had 5 to 8 times Overtimes young adult ratings for goodness sakes. That has to say something, doesn’t it?

    What I could never understand is how this blog was so awful to McCown, when he was the reason why this blog even existed in the first place. Humour has now become everything in modern sports radio, as better people get into it, and the times finally caught up to McCown, not the other way around. And McCown is the only one doing it properly in all of Canada, for Christ’s sake. I think this blog got caught in the same mentality on why so many other great hosts are replaced, just for the sake of something different or a better story. It really made ToronotoSportsMedia look terrible in the last few years.

    There is no doubt now that Rogers and Sportsnet now know how important McCown is, because the ratings reports are starting to come back to them, and advertisers aren’t going to accept it. Think of a company like Korry’s that made good money from McCown’s listeners and had such a great rapport with the show. They are going to making some noise. Big time.

    But Rogers and Sportsnet aren’t in a bad position. They can go to Bob and say you aren’t worth high 6 digits anymore, (maybe even 7) but you are worth mid 6 digits. And Bob can make his triumphal return, with an eye to a future transition with younger guest co-hosts and lots of time off for Bob – which he loves. You can even book end McCown on the Monday and Friday round tables for a long time, which he thrives in, and have the young people take over during the week in a couple of years. What Sportsnet did to him, considering he is Toronto Sports Media, was just silly, considering how valuable he is. And they need to do something with their podcasts for prime time sports. A huge hole at 1050.

    But McCown coming back would be a very typical Toronto sports Media story of many times before.

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    Bingo Bango Bongo 2 months ago

    @Ryan Marks McCown had 5 to 8 times Overdrive’s audience? Not recently he didn’t. My understanding is Overdrive was beating PTS in several demos, and when you included digital and online listening it was by a significant margin. Overdrive is younger, hipper, and way more entertaining. I listened to McCown for years and I have no idea what humour you’re talking about. He was many things but funny wasn’t one of them. t won’t argue that Sportsnet should have kept McCown instead of the unceremonious way he left, but the way he left was dictated by Bob. You’re also ignoring the fact that, as good as he was, he was coasting for several years. They’re mistake wasn’t necessarily letting Bob go, it was not having a competent replacement ready to go. 

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    Ryan Marks 2 months ago

    Bob Canuck, the problem is you’re destroying the brand of “The Fan 590” in order to offset a TV accounting mistake. 590 without McCown is worth far less than with him. So you can look at it, you’re actually losing money in the value of 590, by not paying McCown. They certainly have made TSN 1050 more of an attractive radio station now.

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    Ryan Marks,

    My comments above were in response to Gary M’s remarks regarding Sportsnet and the Rogers-NHL deal. In fact, I questioned the timing of McCown’s dismissal in a comment on a previous post (Sportsnet Prepares for Massive Layoffs).

    “Mike V,

    I did not say that Rogers had to let McCown go because of the financial challenges of the Rogers-NHL deal. I don’t understand why they did not just let his contract expire at its conclusion in 18 months (reportedly). I don’t see how letting McCown go before his contract expires saves any money; we agree on that.”

    The second point I would like to address is your “TV accounting mistake” comment. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive to that remark because I am an accountant, a profession known for its practitioners being sensitive and caring (grin). But I disagree that Rogers/Sportsnet is trying to offset a TV accounting mistake. There is no accounting error that is being remedied; the accounting is fine. They are addressing a significant business deal that faces serious challenges going forward.

    For those interested in more accounting heresy (grin), please click on the link below.

    Cheers!

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    Charles 2 months ago

    Charlie, when you go from a doubling Overtime’s ratings, to being near or lower than the TSN 1050 show, that’s going to cost you way more than paying McCown. 

    Ryan, you clearly missed the point.  It’s not going to cost you more if your overall goal is to put less cost into the medium because your return within that medium is nowhere near what it use to be.  That has nothing to do with the quality of show or host but with the fact that radio is dying.  So your solution is to throw money into a dumpster fire?  

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    Dump Bob McCown and ratings … GO UP?!?. At least on the station overall. Fan increases in the demo over the summer to a 3.2 vs 2.7. 1050 by comparison drops to a 1.1 vs 1.6. Not enough to go on to draw conclusions but does lend a hand to the sneaky hypothesis I’ve considered that Bob benefitted from the timeslot and station more than the other way around the least 3 years.

    Sorry, Mike Boon. I think I ruined your chances of booking him as a guest for the next 400 episodes.

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    I stopped listening to the Fan completely when 1150 went sports but I had largely stopped listening to PTS before that, taking my 35-54 demo ears with me. To be honest PTS was more habit than anything else, it was familiar and yes, at times entertaining while sitting in the 403, The best option at the time, but times change…

    As for cost of Bob, I think it’s much more personal than either side has talked about the way it ended. After this many years his contract would have been iron clad with clear buyout/terminate language. I suspect that Bob is so pissed because they actually used the language to take him off the air and he figured he was untouchable. 

    Rogers is a 12B a year company, even if Bob was 1million a year, it’s barely a rounding error, and clearly worth it to Rogers to make a clean break and move on as quickly as possible. 

    Question is, in 6 months will anyone still miss him?

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    Gary M 2 months ago

    “Bob benefitted from the timeslot and station more than the other way around the least 3 years.”

    This is brilliant to me. Don’t even know if it’s true but it’s just such an interesting opposite-of-consensus thought.

    Charles, I agree completely. Ryan is overestimating the monetary value of a ratings point in 2019, particularly when your demo is rapidly aging.

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    One of the offshoots of the Shannon departure from 590 is that they are now asking the PTS co-hosts to work all three hours each day instead of just 5:00 to 7:00………….that adds up to 15 hours per week instead of the usual 10………………that probably wasn’t much of an issue for Deitsch but I wonder if Brunt needed convincing

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    Can’t wait to see the ratings book for the new Hugh Burrill – Ashley Docking show. Can ratings get below zero? 590 is a hot mess.

    You’d think Ennis and Bunkis would be moved to 530-9 not 9-12. Or maybe MacArthur is taking over the early slot. Perhaps Brady was told MacArthur was joining him and Brady was against it and chose the latter part of Yabsley’s ‘my way or the highway’ offer. 

    This iteration of Brady was the worst of many good pairings. Maybe that was part of it too.